It’s hard to imagine, but Dwight Howard has already been in the NBA for 12 years. He came into the league straight out of high school, sporting braces typical for his age and a body less so. The braces have since been removed, and the body, while still strong, perhaps even stronger, has seen more than its fair share of wear and tear. Howard was in and out of Houston’s lineup last year due to a knee injury, and wasn’t fully himself until the playoffs. Still, despite his 12 years of experience, Dwight tells ESPN’s Calvin Watkins that he feels great, and still has more than few years left in him. Perhaps even a decade.
“Y’all acting like I’m about to retire,” Howard said. “I mean, I feel good. I’m 29 years old regardless of me being in the league for 12 years, I’m fairly young. I got about a good 10 years left in me. I’m going to give everything I got for these 10, 11 years I got left.”
Both Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan are 39, the same age Dwight would be if he makes it 10 more years in the Association. If he really wants to make it for another decade, he needs to take a page from those two legends and dedicate himself to taking care of his body. The San Antonio Spurs’ rest-heavy schedule isn’t the only reason for Duncan’s longevity – it’s also due to the big man’s diligent effort to stay in shape. Losing weight later in his carer saved the Big Fundamental’s knees, gave him more mobility and prolonged his Hall-of-fame career beyond what many expected. As for KG, well, it may well be that if his body stops moving for more than 5 minutes, he ceases to exist.
Dwight needs to take similar care if he hopes to have that sort of longevity. It would also mean expanding his game a bit. Athleticism fades, and if Howard doesn’t develop skills to compensate for that inevitable erosion, he may not be able to stick around for as long as he wants. It all starts with the body, though. Because if you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything.